Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Reviews 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Review: Bridging The Gap With Full EVs

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Review: Bridging The Gap With Full EVs

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is, short of a range-extended EV, the best first step in accepting the electrification of the automobile

  • The base price for the Toyota RAV4 Prime is $44,990 in Canada, $38,100 in the US.

  • The RAV4 is the most convincing PHEV money can buy.

  • It’s biggest flaw is that it’s difficult to buy at the moment.

From the moment the Toyota RAV4 Prime was announced, the message was clear: This is not a typical vehicle. So good has Toyota’s marketing been with the Prime that many think it is a performance model more than anything else. The fact that it is a plug-in hybrid might be known but not fully understood.

With more and more territories, countries, and states declaring war on the internal combustion engine, consumers will soon need to face the fact that before long, they will have no choice but to purchase a new EV. Researches continue to reveal that many car buyers are still confused with the electrification of the automobile which explains in part why Toyota has a point to promote the Prime as a plug-in hybrid but has not made it the SUV’s focus.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

For all the versions of power 

And it has worked, and on every level. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime has become something of an automotive celebrity. Those interested in PHEV technology want it for its impressive built-in range while others are intrigued by its speed potential and finally, is an object of desire for those who need the RAV4’s inherent capabilities along with all the rest.

One of the critical differences between the RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Prime is the latter’s 18.1 kWh battery. Thanks to it, the RAV4 can and will travel up to 68 km (42 miles) on pure battery power. Said battery will require 4.5 hours for a full refill for the standard SE trim with a wall-charger in the US. Available with the XSE (in the US) and standard in Canada is a 6.6 kW onboard charger (from 3.3 kW) that drops charging times to only 2.5 hours.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The other distinction is that the Prime includes more powerful motor-generators which, with the standard 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine, combine for a grand total of 302 horsepower compared to 219.

And for the range

While the output specs are somewhat misleading as the Prime is quick but not fast given its 0-100 km/h time of 6 seconds, its EV range is very real. All week, in the mornings, the indicated range varied between 62 and 66 km, and every time, while not “hyper-milling”, I always managed to cover the indicated distance.

On every occasion, I would make sure that the EV/HV drive mode was selected in order to lock out the petrol engine as much and as long as possible. By the end of the week, I calculated my fuel consumption average to be 5.5L/100km, besting the posted average of 6L/100km. This is a direct result of the Prime’s real-world-useable EV range.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The Prime’s drivetrain consists of an Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) and an Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive (AWD) that includes an electric motor mounted on the rear axle. This setup ensures plenty of seamless power where it is needed and that getting stuck in normal driving situations will not be an issue.

The RAV4 Prime is built upon Toyota’s lovely Global Architecture which, as always, provides the vehicle with an appreciable level of refinement, and a wonderfully calibrated chassis tune that delivers comfort and handling. The braking system is upgraded over the other versions with larger ventilated discs at all four corners. Pedal response is good however there is a transition pause in braking power between regen- and mechanical – consider it a small annoyance that “disappears” over time.

Still spacious and attractive

Certainly, the RAV4 Prime is good to drive. It’s also really good to be in. There’s little need to go over the interior space and accouterments other than mentioning that the Prime does lose some trunk volume over the other versions. Yes, all of 110 litres (2 cubic feet) are sacrificed, leaving owners with only 949 litres (33.5 cubic feet) of boot space which is still more than many competitors.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Physically, the RAV4 Prime looks every bit like a premium RAV4, that is if you notice the wheels, two-tone paint job (optional Supersonic Red in my case), and the various badges. Personally, I think the current generation RAV4 is the most handsome of its kind, and one of the more visually appealing in the segment.

Pricing and competition

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime SE is delivered a complete battery of features for $44,990 in Canada. The XSE, which adds wireless charging, power moonroof, the red and black interior, power hatch, 19-inch wheels, and black roof retails for $51,590 – this was my tester. Finally, there’s also a Technology package that includes a head’s up display, JBL audio, cooled front seats, and more for a grand total of $57,245.

Now, in the compact SUV segment, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is unique and this, despite the presence of the Ford Escape PHEV. Being FWD only, the Ford loses immediately. Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV could be considered although I maintain all my reservations for the moment.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

And being unique is why Toyota warns everyone on its Canadian website of the RAV4 Prime’s limited availability. Currently, it can be ordered in some provinces and will go on sale nation-wide in early 2021.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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